May 10 2007
07:23 am

The KNS has an update on their lawsuit involving alleged sunshine law violations that occurred during the appointment process to replace term-limited county commissioners.

KNS editor Jack McElroy, the plaintiff, was asked if he had any personal knowledge of deliberations taking place outside public view. He responded with this interesting timeline (PDF format), which is the basis of the complaint. Here's a sampling:

During the same recess, reporter Ferrar observed a gathering that included Commissioners Moore and Lambert, as well as Tramel. When Commissioner Schmid noticed the gathering. he said: "They’re trying to sneak in Richard Cate behind my back. They’re trying to swear in Richard Cate. They’re trying to get my vote out." A short while later, reporter Barker went to the area in front of the Small Assembly Room, where Judge Wheeler Rosenbalm, in his robes and carrying a Bible, stood near Richard Cate. Schmid, Lambert, Tramel and Cate were arguing. Rosenbalm was preparing to swear in Cate, although commissioners had agreed earlier to hold off on swearing in the new appointees until 2 p.m. "If you want to keep that spot in '08, you better not do this," Schmid yelled at Cate. Cate eventually replied angrily, "Don’t accuse me of that any more." Tramel told Schmid he was a "part-time" commissioner. "You’re never here for committee meetings,” he said. Schmid turned to Barker and said, "Let’s call a spade a spade. They’re wanting to get my vote out so they can get Lee Tramel in." Lambert angrily called Schmid a "peckerhead." Later, Schmid added, "This is typical of the way these people operate." Cate, who chose not to take the oath of office, said someone in the back of the Main Assembly Room had suggested he take the oath of office early. "I don’t even know who it was." Photographer Cary observed and photographed a portion of the gathering involving Schmid, Lambert and Cate.

The timeline also discusses the details of Jonathan Wimmer's claim that he was offered a deal by Lumpy Lambert if he would agree to be sworn in and vote for Tramel.

Knoxquerious's picture

ooooooh....this is juicy.

ooooooh....this is juicy. It's like Desperate Housewives, Dynasty and Dukes of Hazard rolled into one. I can't hardly wait for this one.

Terry Troll's picture

Or the Tiwanees legislative

Or the Tiwanees legislative body without the fistfights.

rikki's picture

the void

KNS should make a point of the lack of discussion and deliberation during the Jan 31 meeting. If the commissioners claim they were not discussing or deliberating appointments during the face-to-face and phone conversations during which appointments were discussed, then when did they discuss and deliberate? It certainly wasn't during the public meeting.

Also, the letter signed by twelve commissioners sent to Law Director John Owings asking him to withdraw his challenge to the one-man annexation referendum seems like plain evidence of a Sunshine Law violation. Why not add that to the lawsuit?

D Mac's picture

Sunshine Law clarification

If Mayor Ragsdale calls a commissioner at his home and asks if he/she will add his/her name to a letter to the law director requesting him to withdraw the challenge to that one-man annexation (county sueing the county suit, once again), how is that a violation of the Sunshine Law?

It clearly states it is a deliberation (and such) of members of the same governmental body, not a County Mayor and a Commissioner. If indeed the commissioners talked among themselves before agreeing to sign it, that would be a violation.

rikki's picture

Rags who?

According to reports at the time, it was Ivan Harmon, not Ragsdale, peddling that letter around. What use would Ragsdale have with collecting signatures from commissioners? He can make his request to the law director directly. Ragsdale has nothing to do with it, and I'm even sure why you're injecting him in to the situation.

In any case, the letter was clearly intended to substitute for a majority vote of the commission, yet there was no actual vote and no public discussion of the matter. In fact, at the meeting at which it could have been voted on in a timely manner, the expected resolution was never introduced. Once again, we have a void to explain how the commission arrived at its decision.

Also, it's not county vs. county as you seem to imply. It's county vs. city. The county invested a couple million in infrastructure improvements for that development, thinking it would be repaid in future tax collections, but those tax revenues will now go to the city.

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